Each game has its own particular matchups within the game that are oh so very important to the outcome. Matchups so important that they can be the difference in a win and a loss. For every game this season, I’ll be taking a look at the three most important matchups regarding an individual or even within a position group.
1st Down: Missouri D-Line vs Tennessee O-Line
The Missouri defensive line is going to be pivotal this season, but this week they will be tested against an experienced Vols offensive line— specifically, their interior. The Vols interior offensive line has a combined 71 starts between them, 39 of them from preseason All-American, Trey Smith. In addition to all of their interior experience, this week the Volunteers got even more depth as the NCAA granted a waiver to former five-star recruit and Georgia Bulldog, Cade Mays. They expect him to start this week as well.
All of the experience on the Vols’ offensive line will be a big task for Missouri’s defensive line, who may still be finding their footing. The Tigers’ D-Line has their fair share of experience and shouldn’t be discounted, but they definitely have to bring their A-game to have a chance win this matchup. I expect to see a few different looks thrown in this week and more blitzing if the Tigers can’t affect the quarterback by getting pressure in rushing four guys. The Tigers have to help their young cornerbacks out and not give Jarett Guarantano ample time to throw.
2nd Down: Mizzou Defense vs Jarrett Guarantano
Look, I’m not saying Jarrett Guarantano is Peyton Manning or anything, but he’s experienced. He has a decent arm, and if the Tigers can’t get any pressure on him, he could very easily sit back in the pocket and pick their zone coverage apart. At the same time, Guarantano also has a history of recklessness with the ball, and will occasionally take chances that he maybe shouldn’t take. The Tigers have to capitalize off those inevitable mistakes.
Guarantano is also no Lamar Jackson, but he does have the athletic ability to use his legs and scramble to extend plays, or just act as a scrambler. The defense as a whole has to be disciplined and account for Guarantano’s legs in the run game. He can and will hurt them.
This defense has some really nice pieces, and this game is a fair matchup for the Tigers to showcase said pieces, and make the Vol’s most important player nervous.
3rd Down: Zeke Powell & Larry Borom vs DeAndre Johnson
DeAndre Johnson is an absolute problem to deal with. Don’t believe me?
Ask Will Muschamp and Mike Bobo. He absolutely wrecked their game plan last week to the tune of 2.5 sacks in week one.
Listed as an OLB, Johnson often lines up as a pass rusher, and that’s probably where he’s at his best. He’s got an unbelievable first step, and is freakishly athletic.
Flat out, I expect his speed off the edge to give the Missouri tackles problems. The entire offensive line as a whole looked a bit overmatched at times, but they really struggled with pass blocking against Alabama. I look forward to finding out if that was strictly because of the talent difference between the two teams, or if there are some more serious issues along that line.